Gathering Around the Table

I love Summer.  

I love the warm weather, the early sunrises and late sunsets.  I love being in the water, whether that means the beach or a pool.  I love to immerse myself in the coolness, swim downward and across the length of a cold pool.  I love summer evening barbecues and chatting the evening away with friends.  I love cold iced tea.  I love not having to worry about bedtimes, because there is no school the next day.  I love the freedom that comes with summer–no school, nowhere to go.  I try to keep our summers low key and free.  I love free.

But, as every summer draws to a close the last four years, I’ve found myself doing the same thing.  As I notice the days getting dark earlier, the stores swimming in school supplies, and the pools reminding patrons that they will be closings soon, I do the same thing.  Every summer.

I panic. 

I decided to homeschool.  My husband left that decision to me, promising me that he would support me either way.  He was leery of homeschooling; he was a public school grad and I was in public school until my senior year during which I was homeschooled.  Admittedly, it was very foreign to both of us.  Ironically, now institutionalized school is foreign to me as a mother.  I have no idea how it feels to get kids up at 6am and rush out the door to drop off or the bus stop.  I have no idea how it feels to have less kids at home during part of the day (occasionally that sounds really nice, if I’m being honest).  I have no idea what the homework rush is like, we’ve never done meet the teacher, and I’ve not had to worry about their class folders and papers.  We just…do school.

But usually after buying all the books, but before the school supply shopping that I do at the eleventh hour, I panic.  Not a momentary Are you sure about this, Adrienne, okay we are good.  I’m talking a day-long, full blown anxiety attack.  Yes, that’s hard to admit.  Yes, it makes me feel ashamed I do it yearly.  But I do.

Education is intense.  The decisions that parents have to make regarding nearly every facet of their child’s education can be paralyzing.  Charter school? Public school?  Private school?  Homeschool?  Which teacher?  Which electives?  Which neighborhood has the best schools?  When you commit to taking on your children’s entire education, that’s intense!  I’m choosing to teach my children to read, write, add, subtract.  I am teaching them science and all the experiments.  Anything they excel at later is partially because of me, but anything they fail it is also on me potentially.

I do not regret my decision to homeschool.  I love it so much.  I know it’s not for everyone and it may not be for us at some point either.  But the pressure of it all hits me every year, just before school starts.  All the questions.  Am I denying them an experience for which they’ll hate me later on?  Am I biting off more than I can chew?  Should I put them in school to give them more socialization?  Am I good enough? So, I hit my knees in prayer and discernment every summer.  And I wait to hear His voice.  So far, He reassures me.  This is what I want right now.  And you are good enough.

So, yesterday, I had my panic day.  I practiced self-care (also called a long rest), and then went school supply shopping.  I felt better.  Today, I pulled out everything from the school cabinet and reorganized everything for Monday.  Bigger than that, though, I let myself examine every option.  I’m going into this year terribly burnt out.  Not a good way to start the year, but that’s life.  This spring and summer were terribly dark for me on an emotional and a spiritual level.  Few people know the demons with which I was fighting.  And they took their toll in a big way.  So I know the stress from all of that is not helping.  Envisioning each option and really discerning what was best outside of all the emotion helped tremendously.

So, school starts Monday.  Here.  At our dining room table.  Once again, we will gather around the table together.  We will start our year next to each other.  And we will learn together.  Recently my husband and I watched the move Wonder.  Once scene caught me off guard and I broke down.  The mother had just put her little guy in school after years of homeschooling.  The first day of his school year, she sat at the empty homeschool table all day and wept.  That will be me.  Someday, whether they go off to school or off to college, my homeschool table will sit empty.  And, despite the struggles, the hardships, the panic; despite the yearly panic and the mid-year burn out, I will miss it.  I will miss pulling myself to the table with my cup of coffee and wearily pulling out the books.  I will miss the thrill and excitement of the first day of school together.  I will miss hearing them beg me to keep homeschooling them.  I will miss looking up from a book and seeing each face, sad or happy, frustrated or joyful.  I will miss them.

So, here’s to the end of another summer panic day.  Here’s to the books and supplies neatly on the shelves awaiting the start of another year.  Here’s to a, God willing, mostly peaceful, calm school year.  Here’s to Monday.  Here’s to gathering around the table.  Again.

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